How to perform a breast self-exam

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam routine is very important.” As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are discussing how to do a breast self-exam and why they are an important part of your normal routine. 

The importance of breast self-exams

Regular breast self-exams allow you to notice abnormalities or changes in your breasts that you need to discuss with your gynecologist. Breast self-exams are not, however, a substitute for a breast exam by your doctor or a screening mammogram. Gaining familiarity with the normal look and feel of your breasts can supplement breast cancer screening but it can’t replace it. This will increase the odds of early detection. 

How to perform a breast self-exam

While we will guide you through the techniques to use when performing a breast self-exam, you may find it helpful to ask your gynecologist for a demonstration. 

Choose a time in your menstrual cycle when your breasts are less tender and swollen. Your hormone levels fluctuate throughout the month but are especially high during your menstrual cycle which causes changes in breast tissue. The best time to perform a breast self-exam is usually the week after your menstrual cycle ends and you should try to do a breast self-exam at about the same time each month. 

Visual Examination

Start your breast self-exam by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. During this inspection, you should do the following: 

  • Facing forward, look for puckering, dimpling, or changes in size, shape, or symmetry.
  • Changes in your nipples. This might include inversion or a change in position.
  • Lift each breast to see if the ridges along the bottom are symmetrical.
  • Raise your hands above your head and look for changes in the contour, swelling, or dimpling. 

Physical Examination

There are two common ways to perform the manual part of the breast exam:

#1: In the shower

We recommend performing the breast self-exam in the shower because the moisture on your skin will allow your fingers to glide smoothly over your breasts. Using the pads of your fingers and circular motions about the size of a quarter, move around your entire breasts from the outside to the center checking the entire breast and armpit area. During this process, you are feeling for any lumps, thickening, or hardened knots. 

#2: Lying down

When you’re lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly across the chest wall, making it thinner and an ideal position to perform your breast self-exam. Choose a bed or other flat surface, lie down flat, and place a pillow under the arch of your back. Once again using the pads of your fingers, use your left hand to make small circular motions around your right breast and your right hand to do the same on your left breast, covering the entire area from top to bottom and side to side – from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen and from your armpit to your cleavage. 

Alternate between applying light, medium, and firm pressure depending on the area: use light pressure for the tissue just beneath the skin, medium pressure for the tissue in the middle of your breasts, and firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. 

General tips to bear in mind:

  • Use the pads, not the very tips of your middle three fingers, held flat and together to perform the breast self-exam. 
  • Take your time. This entire process may take several minutes but you want to perform a thorough and not rushed examination. 
  • Follow a pattern to ensure that you are examining the entire breast. 

When should you contact your gynecologist?

You should make an appointment with your gynecologist if you notice any of the following during a breast self-exam:

  • Dimpling, puckering, bulges, or ridges on the skin of your breast
  • A change in your nipple such as inversion or a change in position
  • Nipple discharge especially that which is yellow or blood
  • Changes in the way your breasts look or feel, including thickening
  • A hard lump or knot near your underarm
  • Itching, scales, sores, or rashes
  • Redness, warmth, swelling, or pain

While 8 out of 10 times a lump in your breast is not a sign of breast cancer, early detection significantly increases the chance of survival so if you detect any of the above changes, seek professional medical assistance. 

Give us a call at Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care to schedule an appointment: 757-455-8833.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Here's What You Should Know

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Here’s What You Should Know

Every year, 245,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women, and more than 40,000 women die from the disease, according to the CDC. While breast cancer is far more common in women – 99% of the cases plaguing the population are in women – it can also affect men. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to ensure that you’re aware of the risk factors that could lead to breast cancer, the symptoms associated with it, and how to decrease your chances of a diagnosis

What is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease where the cells in the breasts grow out of control. There are different types of breast cancer and the type is dependent upon which cells in the breast become cancerous. 

Where does breast cancer form?

Breast cancer can begin in different parts of the breasts but most commonly it forms in the milk ducts, the tubes that deliver milk to the nipples. Cancer may also form in the lobules, which are the glands that produce the milk. Breast cancer can spread outside the breast through blood vessels and lymph vessels. 

Know the symptoms of breast cancer

Different people that are diagnosed with breast cancer may experience different symptoms while some may experience none at all. Some symptoms commonly associated with breast cancer include:

  • Nipple inversion or pain in the nipple area.
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast.
  • Discharge from the nipple other than breast milk; this includes blood.
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast.
  • Irritation or dimpling of breast skin.
  • A new lump in the breast or armpit.
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast. 
  • Pain in any area of the breast. 

While some of these symptoms could be associated with a condition that is not cancer, if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. 

Reduce your risk for breast cancer

Your risk for breast cancer is due to a combination of factors, where the main ones that increase your risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women that are 50 or older while about 10% of new breast cancer cases are found in women younger than 45. Many factors over your lifetime can affect your breast cancer risk, some that you have no control over, your family history or age for example, while you have the ability to lower your risk by taking care of your health.

Breast cancer risk factors you cannot control

  • Aging: The risk of breast cancer increases as you age with most breast cancers diagnosed after the age of 50.
  • Menstrual cycle history: Women whose menstrual cycles started before age 12 and those who started menopause after age 55 have a higher risk of breast cancer because they are exposed to hormones longer. 
  • Family history of breast cancer: The risk for breast cancer is higher if a woman’s mother, sister, or daughter or if multiple distant relatives on either parent’s side have had breast cancer. 
  • Personal history of breast cancer or other non-cancerous breast diseases: Women who have had a history of breast cancer are more likely to get breast cancer a second time. 
  • Previous radiation therapy treatment: Women who have had radiation therapy on their breasts or chest before the age of 30 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.
  • Having dense breasts: Dense breasts means a woman has more connective tissue than fatty tissue which makes it more difficult to detect tumors on a mammogram. 
  • Genetic mutations: Women who have inherited genetic mutations to certain genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Women who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES): DES was a drug given to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. Women who took it or whose mothers took it while pregnant with them have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Breast cancer risk factors you can control

  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly, particularly after menopause. 
  • Breastfeeding your children lowers your risk of a breast cancer diagnosis. 
  • Getting pregnant for the first time after age 30, not breastfeeding, and never having a full-term pregnancy can raise breast cancer risk.
  • External hormones like birth control pills, oral contraceptives, and hormone replacement therapy have been found to raise breast cancer risk. Ask your doctor about the risks to find the best solution for you. 
  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer. Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day or less. 

Get breast cancer screenings regularly

As we stated earlier, some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer don’t experience any symptoms at all, making it that much more vital that you get regular breast cancer screenings. A breast cancer screening involves checking a woman’s breasts for cancer before signs or symptoms of the disease manifest themselves. It does not prevent breast cancer but it can assist in finding breast cancer early and early detection makes it easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about the best time to start getting regular breast cancer screenings and which test is best for you. 

Living with Incurable STDs

Living with Incurable STDs

Learning that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can certainly be a scary prognosis. Each infection comes with its own symptoms, levels of pain, and treatment options if they are available. Plus there’s always the task of telling your partner that you have a condition that could affect them too. Whether you think you have an STD or your doctor has confirmed it, it’s important that you learn as much as possible about your particular condition and whether or not there are treatment options to lessen or alleviate your symptoms. 

Before we discuss incurable STDs, it’s important to note that any person that is sexually active is at risk of contracting STDs making it that much more pertinent that you educate yourself and practice safe sex every single time. 

Incurable STDs and Treatment Options

There are sexually transmitted diseases that can be cured with antibiotics and medication but here we have compiled a list of those that stay with you for the rest of your life. 

HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is probably the most well-known of all STDs and is a chronic disease that severely attacks the infected person’s immune system. If left untreated, it can develop into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). With the development of AIDS comes a significant decline in your immune system’s ability to fight even the most minor infections, the common cold for example. 

HIV is spread through bodily fluids and can progress and spread quite rapidly through three stages: 

  1. Acute HIV infection: This refers to the first two to four week period after a person has been infected during which he or she is highly contagious exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Some people experience no symptoms at all or assume it is the flu, which is why it’s important that you get tested if you think you’ve been exposed. 
  2. Clinical latency: During this stage, the virus is still present and reproducing at a slow rate which can lead to the person feeling just fine. A person could live in this stage for several decades if he or she is undergoing proper treatment, lowering their chances of infecting someone else.
  3. AIDS: In this last stage, the immune system is so damaged that they’re unable to fight off even the most minor illness. When left untreated, AIDS typically leaves those infected with just three years to live. 

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the best medication to treat HIV and consists of a daily cocktail of several prescription pills. When taken every day, the medication can drastically prolong the life of someone affected by HIV, relieving their symptoms and lowering the chance of infecting others. With the introduction of the medication in the mid-90s, someone with HIV could live nearly as long as someone not affected by the virus. 

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis has five different varieties but type B is most commonly spread through sex and results in a liver infection. It’s the primary cause of liver cancer or cirrhosis (liver failure). Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine but patients that contract the chronic infection have it for life. It’s highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and urine. Protect yourself with the Hep B vaccine and by practicing safe sex. 

Hepatitis B generally goes away on its own in four to eight weeks with symptoms often not manifesting and doctors recommending you rest, eat well, and drink plenty of fluids. However, one in 20 people who get it as adults become carriers, which means they will have chronic hepatitis B and will have the disease for life, although there are medications a doctor can provide to help treat it. 

HPV

While HIV may be the most well-known and feared STD, Human Papillomavirus is the most common. According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected and nearly all sexually active men and women will contract HPV at some point in their lives. The problem with HPV and part of the reason that it’s so widespread is that the virus often goes undetected. Your partner may not show any symptoms and yet they can still pass the virus through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. 

This virus is one of the reasons that your annual exam is so important as abnormal cells in your cervix can indicate HPV or cervical cancer so make sure you’re scheduling an appointment with your gynecologist every year. 

The HPV vaccine is recommended for prevention. If you develop genital warts as a result of the virus, doctors may prescribe topical medicine or you can have them removed. If your doctor has detected cervical precancer as a result of your pap smear, prevention may still be possible if detected in its early stages. 

Herpes

Herpes is another virus that manifests in more than one type: there’s herpes simplex 1 which usually lives in the mouth in the form of cold sores and herpes simplex 2 which lives around the genitals. During an outbreak, fluid-filled blisters will appear and eventually break, causing painful sores for about two weeks. 

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 people in the US between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes but over 80% of people with genital herpes are unaware that they have it. Herpes can be contracted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex and transmission is possible even without the presence of visible sores. 

If you are pregnant and think you might have been exposed to the herpes virus, you must let your OB-GYN know as soon as possible. The infection could result in a miscarriage, premature delivery, or neonatal herpes which can be fatal. 

Because sores often exist on the skin on and around the genital area, condoms are not 100% effective in protecting a person from contracting herpes, making it extremely important that you get tested. 

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea does respond to medicine, however, there is a fast-growing strain that is resistant to the antibiotic regimen long-used to treat gonorrhea. About 820,000 people get gonorrhea infections in the US each year. A person with gonorrhea may show no signs but symptoms can include discharge from the vagina or penis, vaginal bleeding between periods, painful or swollen testicles, and a painful, burning sensation when urinating. 

If you get tested and discover that you have gonorrhea, your doctor will prescribe a treatment that involves two different drugs to stop the infection. This treatment cannot undo any permanent damage that the disease might have caused up to this point. But as we stated earlier, the CDC says that the new drug-resistant strains threaten the medication’s effectiveness. If you find that your symptoms continue even after receiving treatment, it’s important that you inform your doctor immediately. 

Managing Incurable STDs

In addition to seeking proper treatment, it’s also important to seek proper support. Ignoring a sexually transmitted disease won’t make it go away; in fact, it could cause irreversible damage to your internal organs. In addition to that physical damage, it can also cause a substantial amount of stress. You may want to seek counseling or a support group and you should know there’s no shame in doing either; it’s important that you don’t feel isolated while going through treatment. 

And if you are sexually active and have not been tested recently, you should do so. After all, many STDs don’t have any symptoms and 50% of the population will have contracted one by the time they’re 25

If you potentially have been exposed to an STD, getting tested is the only way to know for sure and take steps to seek treatment. We don’t want you to take any risks when it comes to your health. To schedule your annual appointment with Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care, click here.

What You Should Know About Birth Control

What You Should Know About Birth Control

While most women have a basic working knowledge of birth control (meaning they know it’s used for contraception), there are many nuances within each type of birth control that make it the best choice for each individual and the other purposes it serves. So today we want to give you an overview of the most popular birth control methods, how they work, which method may work best for you and your needs, and reasons you might choose to use birth control aside from contraception

What are the most common birth control methods?

Condoms

Due to their easy accessibility, condoms are the most popular type of birth control and a preferred method of contraception for people who are not in monogamous relationships because they are effective at protecting from several sexually transmitted diseases. They are also great for reducing your chances of getting an infection from oral and anal sex. Because of this, condoms are often used in addition to other birth control methods that aren’t as effective in this area. But know that they are not 100% effective in protecting against STDs because they do not cover all vulnerable areas. No other birth control methods in this list will protect against STDs. 

Here are a few steps you should take to ensure that condoms are as effective as possible:

  • Don’t double up. It actually makes them less effective because the friction of the two rubbing together increases the chances of them breaking.
  • Always check the expiration date.
  • Wear the condom from beginning to end, not just when the male ejaculates.
  • Store them at room temperature.

Oral Contraceptives

More commonly known as The Pill, oral contraceptives are another popular and effective means of preventing pregnancy…as long as the woman remembers to take them at the same time every single day. With that being said, the pill may not be the best method for people who are forgetful because forgetting to take it greatly reduces its effectiveness. 

The pill works by preventing ovulation but like we said earlier, the pill is not going to protect you against STDs so it should be used in combination with condoms if you are in a situation where you could be vulnerable to STDs.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An IUD is a small piece of plastic, resembling a T, that releases hormones into your bloodstream that either prevent ovulation or block sperm from reaching an egg. 

They are a popular birth control method of choice for women who don’t wish to become a mother any time soon (or ever) because they can be inserted without the woman having to worry about birth control for several years. The span of time depends upon the brand of the IUD so you should discuss options with your gynecologist. They are also great for women who know that they won’t be able to remember to take oral contraceptives on a daily basis. 

The Patch

The patch is also a birth control method that controls your hormones and prevents pregnancy by blocking the ovaries from releasing eggs, increasing the thickness of cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg, and causing the lining of the uterus to become porous so that, if fertilization does occur, the egg can’t implant in the uterus. The patch is placed on your skin and must be replaced weekly, available only via prescription. 

Emergency Contraception

More commonly known as “the morning-after pill,” this birth control method must be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex (or some other mishap occurred). The morning-after pill works by temporarily stopping the release of eggs from the ovaries. And if an egg has already been released, the pill can prevent that egg from becoming fertilized by sperm. 

The morning-after pill comes with the common misconception that it is an “abortion pill” but that is not the case; in order for an abortion to occur, a fertilized egg has to attach to the uterus. 

None of the birth control methods that we’ve listed above are 100% failproof. It’s important that along with obtaining birth control, you talk to your gynecologist about your overall health and practicing safe sex. There are side effects that come with hormonal alternatives like most birth control methods that can have adverse effects on your body, particularly if you are taking other medications. 

Besides contraception, what are other reasons that people get on birth control?

Some of the most common reasons women may decide to take birth control include:

Treat Acne

Many women with chronic acne who have tried many different types of face washes, ointments, and acne systems with no results will often turn to birth control. Birth control pills can reduce the production of sebum which in turn can decrease the number of breakouts a woman has. 

Treat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that results in irregular periods that can manifest itself in unusually heavy menstruation, pelvic pain, and excessive body hair growth. Taking birth control pills can help to regulate your hormones and prevent these symptoms. 

Migraine Prevention

Migraines can be a premenstrual symptom for some women as they are a result of a drop in estrogen. Birth control pills can help to regulate those hormones and significantly reduce or even eliminate migraines that are related to PMS.

Treat Primary Ovarian Insufficiency

This condition, also known as Primary Ovarian Failure, occurs when a woman doesn’t produce enough estrogen for her ovaries to function properly and can result in irritability, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes in women under 40. The pill can once again help to regulate estrogen levels.

Ease Endometriosis

Endometriosis is when tissue, usually only found inside the uterus, starts growing outside the womb. During a menstrual cycle, that tissue is generally released with your period but if it grows outside of the uterus, it has nowhere to go and can cause immense pain or even infertility. Some contraceptives prevent pain that’s associated with endometriosis by preventing the growth of that tissue. 

Contact Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care for More Information on Birth Control Methods

We are confident that any questions you may have about birth control or other health-related inquiries, we have heard countless times and can help you find a solution for it. We work hard to establish great relationships with every single one of our patients and that starts here. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Choosing a Gynecologist for Your Teen

Choosing a Gynecologist for Your Teen

As a woman, going to the gynecologist is an annual routine of exams and health screenings and part of a healthy lifestyle. But for your daughter, it can seem intimidating, even invasive, which is why we at Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care make a special point of creating a comfortable and informative environment for our young patients. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that adolescents should start visiting the gynecologist as early as age 13-15. So while this may make both parents and teens a little nervous, knowing exactly what goes on in these appointments and how to find the best care for your daughter will put your mind at ease. 

How to choose a gynecologist for your teen

While you may have taken care of your daughter’s health choices up until now, this is one that you should allow her to make, or at least give her say in the matter. It’s essential that you choose someone with experience with teen gynecology who takes the time to make her feel comfortable. Ask your daughter these questions to help choose the best health provider:

  1. Would you prefer a male or female?
  2. Do you prefer someone that is older or younger?
  3. Do you want to stay with the pediatrician you currently see or try someone new?
  4. Would you prefer to see the same person as me or do you prefer to see someone totally new?

What to expect during your daughter’s gynecology appointment

A teen gynecology appointment is not your mother’s gynecology appointment. Her first gynecological appointment has three main objectives:

  • Prevention: During these appointments, teens will be educated on how to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and how to instead make healthy lifestyle choices. 
  • Information: Teens will receive the most accurate information and have their questions answered. Plus, we’ll keep all the information discussed during this appointment confidential unless it could potentially pose a threat to your teen or others. 
  • Treatment: For teens experiencing missed or painful periods and other gynecologic issues, we will discuss treatment options with you and your daughter. 

Generally, the first gynecology appointment for your teen looks more like a meet and greet where we share necessary information with your teen to know about her body’s transformation, answer any questions she may have, and set both of us up to form a great relationship in the future. A physical exam – internal or external – are not typically part of these visits but if they are seen as necessary to help your daughter with issues she may be facing, we will always get permission from both you and your daughter before proceeding. If needed, we may do an ultrasound to get more information about the systems and their operations inside her body. 

What will the gynecologist discuss with your daughter

Your daughter’s first appointment will be an opportunity to talk to her about development and her medical history. This means we will ask questions like:

  • When was your last period? How frequently do you get them and how long do they last?
  • Are you or have you ever been sexually active? If so, are you using protection?
  • Are you having any problems with your period? What are your symptoms usually like?
  • Do you have any strange discomfort, itchiness, or discharge in your vaginal area? 
  • Is there any chance you might be pregnant?

Other topics that may be discussed, particularly if your daughter has a question about them, may include:

  • Means of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Safety and injury prevention
  • Puberty and development
  • Healthy lifestyle habits
  • Prevention of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use
  • Anything else of concern
So you think you have a UTI? Here's what to do about it

So you think you have a UTI? Here’s what to do about it

It all starts the same way. You go to pee one day and it burrrrnnnss. If you’re a woman, it’s likely that you have a UTI that’s causing this painful sensation. You might be surprised just how common UTIs are for women: about 50-60% of adult women have had a UTI and 1 in 2 women will get at least one in their lifetime. They’re painful, they’re uncomfortable, and you might feel a little weird asking questions about them, which is exactly why we’re bringing this article to you today. Here’s exactly how to handle UTIs, no matter if this is your first or fifth one and how to prevent them in the future. 

What is a UTI?

Let’s start with the basics: UTI stands for Urinary Tract Infection which is the general term for an infection occurring anywhere within your urinary system. Most often they infect the bladder and urethra – the tube that drains the bladder – but they can also happen in the ureters – the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder – and the kidneys themselves. 

What causes UTIs?

You know how you’ve been told from a young age to wipe front to back? Well, UTIs are the primary reason why doing this is so important. The urethra is located close to the anus where bacteria from the large intestine (E. coli, for example) can travel from the anus to the urethra if you’re not careful. They can travel up to the bladder and if it’s not treated there, they can reach and infect the kidneys. Women’s anatomical composition makes them more prone to getting UTIs because they have shorter urethras so the bacteria can more readily access the bladder. 

Having sex is another way in which bacteria can get to the urinary tract. During sex, bacteria tends to travel from the skin toward and into the urethra.

Symptoms of UTIs

The symptoms you’ll most commonly see with a urinary tract infection include:

  • Pain or burning while peeing
  • Frequent or intense need to urinate although little comes out when you do
  • Foul-smelling, cloudy, or bloody urine
  • Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen, just above where your bladder is located
  • Feeling of fatigue or shakiness
  • Fever or chills – this could be a sign that it has reached your kidney

How to treat UTIs

If you think you have a UTI, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your OBGYN or primary care physician. Many women will try to self-treat it, or worse, just hope it goes away on its own. And while some minor UTIs do go away on their own, it’s best to see a doctor and have them diagnose and treat it as the infection can spread to other parts of your body and be dangerous. 

Your doctor will take a urine sample (so make sure to drink plenty of water before your appointment) which will allow them to diagnose it right then and there, meaning you’ll leave the office with an answer and a solution! We’ll choose an antibiotic based on the type of bacteria you have, taking into account other factors like pregnancy, allergies, other medications, and medical history. Now all you have to do is take the full cycle of treatment to make sure the infection is completely gone. 

Does cranberry juice cure UTIs?

Cranberry juice and cranberry extract have been commonly used to treat and prevent UTIs and while cranberry certainly can’t hurt and can help, it’s not a one and done solution for UTIs. There isn’t a common consensus on whether or not cranberry actually reduces the number of UTIs a woman gets as studies have shown both that and the opposite. Don’t expect that cranberry will cure a UTI without antibiotics. But if the pain is unbearable before you can get to the doctor, it can provide some relief. 

The pain has become unbearable. What can you do?

If you either have started taking the antibiotic and it hasn’t kicked in yet or you haven’t gotten to the doctor yet, the pain may still be causing you a lot of discomfort. There are plenty of over-the-counter medications that you can take to relieve the symptoms while you’re waiting for your antibiotic to work its magic. Simply consult with your doctor on which option they recommend and pick it up at your nearest drugstore. 

How to prevent UTIs

  • Empty your bladder frequently as soon as you feel the urge to go and empty it completely.
  • Wipe from front to back.
  • Don’t use scented feminine care products – they just cause irritation.
  • Always pee before and after sex.
  • Wear cotton underwear only and loose-fitting clothing as much as possible. Avoid tight jeans and nylon underwear as they can trap moisture and create an environment that breeds bacteria. 
  • Never stay in a wet swimsuit for too long.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. 
  • Take probiotics and increase your vitamin C intake to boost your immune system.
  • Opt for showers over baths.
  • If you use a diaphragm, unlubricated condoms, or spermicide as a birth control method, you may want to consult your doctor about switching to another option as these have all been known to contribute to UTIs.
Pregnancy Tips

6 Tips to Help You Through Your Summer Pregnancy

With the summer heat in full blaze and ever-rising temperatures, it’s even more important during the summer months that you take care of your health and body as an expecting mother, especially considering that August is the most popular month for birthdays, according to the CDC. While you are probably eager to welcome your new baby to the world, you should make sure to take extra precautions in the months leading up. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #1: Stay hydrated

It’s especially important that you’re staying hydrated in the summer heat while you’re pregnant. Being dehydrated when you’re expecting can increase your risk of headaches, constipation, more swelling, or, in extreme cases, experiencing contractions. So in addition to the 8 glasses of water that’s recommended for everyone, you have to think about replacing the water you’re losing when you’re sweating. It’s not just hotter outside; pregnant women are hotter by nature. In the first trimester, the progesterone hormone increases your body temperature. 

But, water can get a little boring so get creative with your water intake. Try smoothies with lots of ice, frozen fruit, and a little yogurt. Or maybe take the smoothie, freeze it, and turn it into a refreshing popsicle. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #2: Stay cool in comfy, breathable clothes

It is important that you stay cool during your pregnancy and this means not only cranking up the AC to match your level of comfort but also wearing clothes that allow your body to breathe and keep your sweat to a minimum. Looser silhouettes are a good option and a hat is a great way to top off an outfit and reduce sun exposure. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #3: Keep your feet elevated

Swelling during pregnancy is practically inevitable because when you’re expecting, your body produces 50% more fluids than when you’re not pregnant, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Standing for extended periods of time will only make the swelling worse but sitting with your feet kicked up on an elevated surface can help to alleviate the discomfort. Bear in mind that very salty foods can make you swell even more especially when paired with pregnancy and heat, so you may want to avoid salty foods to keep from further exacerbating it. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #4: Wear comfortable shoes

There are so many summer shoes out there that are just not pregnancy-friendly because they don’t provide enough support for your feet. If you choose sandals, we recommend a pair that cradles your foot and can be adjusted as your feet swell and shrink. Flip flops and some other sandal styles don’t provide enough arch support and as your belly grows, you are more likely to have back pain and supportive shoes help to prevent that.

Summer Pregnancy Tip #5: Lather on the sunscreen

Sun protection is always key but because your skin has increased sensitivity to the sun during pregnancy, it’s especially important that you are applying and reapplying non-chemical sunscreen regularly. Exposure to the sun can not only cause dehydration, but it can also worsen melasma or the skin hyperpigmentation that can often come with pregnancy. 

Summer Pregnancy Tip #6: Plan your outdoor time

As tempting as it may be, now is not the time to be lying on the beach on the hottest days. If you are going to the beach, do so in short intervals in the early morning or evenings so as to avoid the hottest hours of the day. 

Swimming is a great form of exercise while pregnant: it’ll cool you down, reduce swelling in your joints, and give you that weightless feeling that takes some of that pressure away. But be careful what pools you’re swimming in, only pools that are clean and don’t reek of chlorine. 

Other gentle forms of exercise are a great idea as long as you are, once again, doing them when the temperatures are cooler. A gentle morning hike or gardening session in the morning or an hour of prenatal yoga in a well-ventilated studio midday are great. 

What to Expect At A Gynecologist Visit

What to Expect At A Gynecologist Appointment

Let’s start today’s topic off with a firm understanding of what role different doctors play in a woman’s life. A gynecologist is a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health. Obstetricians care for women during their pregnancy and just after the baby is born; they also deliver babies. An OBGYN, on the other hand, is trained to do all of these things. 

Now, because they deal with such personal and sensitive topics, the thought of visiting an OBGYN may make you feel nervous, embarrassed, and reluctant to discuss your most intimate issues with someone who is essentially a stranger. We get it, it may feel a little uncomfortable. So that’s why we’re here to take the dread out of your annual appointments with some tips on feeling more comfortable with your OBGYN and an idea of what you can expect at your checkups. 

When Should You First Visit the Gyno?

College should not be your first rodeo with a gynecologist. We highly recommend that between the ages of 13 and 15 you touch base with a gynecologist, find out what we do, and tell us a little about your medical history if you feel so inclined. It doesn’t have to be a super long or in-depth visit, but we find that in establishing a relationship with your gyno from a young age, you’re setting yourself up for a much better and more comfortable relationship later. If you don’t feel entirely comfortable disclosing to your gyno, find another provider. You have a choice in the matter because it’s your care. 

Preparing for Your Visit

Avoid having sex or douching within 24 hours of your pending appointment as this can irritate your vagina and impact the results of your Pap test. 

Before you even enter the office, you should be clear on the purpose of the visit. Not all visits require an exam. There are numerous other situations in which an exam is not necessary; for example, the first time you meet your gynecologist which mimics more of a meet and greet than a typical doctor’s office visit. Or maybe you just want to discuss your contraceptive options, family planning, your irregular periods, etc. But one thing is for sure: there shouldn’t be any surprises on either your or your provider’s end going into your appointment. 

What Happens at a Gynecologist Visit

When you get to your appointment, it is your gyno’s job to make sure everyone is on the same page and review how exactly how this exam will go. If an exam is taking place, have them go over the specifics that entails: will there be a breast or pelvic exam? How do these things work? It’s important to remember that nothing should be happening to you during your appointment without your consent or feeling “comfortable” about it. 

Your medical history should and will be discussed thoroughly including (but not limited to) your surgical history, current medications, family history, inquiries into your smoking, drinking, and drug habits, and reviewing medical issues you may have. Even though we’re a gynecologist, we aren’t here just to talk about your sexual history; getting to know you a little more personally in terms of your medical history helps us provide the best care to you that we possibly can. 

Generally, your appointment will start with a health check. The nurse will take your weight and blood pressure; you may also have to provide blood and urine samples. Then you’ll move into the physical exam in which you’ll be asked to undress and change into a gown that opens in the front and a sheet to cover your lap. 

Your OBGYN will ask you questions typically about your personal and family health history, periods and any problems they may cause, if you’re sexually active and how often, birth control options, vaccine history, and any sexually transmitted diseases you’ve had or think you might have. Questions might get personal but it’s important that you provide your doctor with completely honest answers for her/him to provide the best care possible. You should also use this time to ask questions that you might have about any of the above topics or more. You may feel embarrassed asking them but trust us when we say, we’ve heard it all before. 

As a part of your physical exam, the doctor will examine the outside of your vagina for abnormalities and then examine your reproductive organs from the inside. During this exam, your knees will be bent, your feet up in stirrups and the gynecologist will use a speculum to hold the vagina open while she exams it and your cervix. This shouldn’t feel painful, more like pressure. Your gyno will then take a sample of cells from your cervix using a small brush for a Pap test; the cells will then be sent to a lab and checked for abnormalities that could signify cervical cancer or HPV.

If you are sexually active, your doctor will likely test you for sexually transmitted diseases with a cotton swab during your pelvic exam and/or checking your blood test. Your OBGYN might also do a breast exam to check for any lumps or abnormalities.

After your exam, a nurse will follow up with any test results over the phone or by email. 

Your Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care physician and office staff will do everything within our power to make sure you understand the different elements of your exam and feel as comfortable as possible.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Top 11 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

With the Internet, your friends, and family all saying different things, it can be a little confusing what foods are safe to consume during pregnancy and which foods you should no-way-under-any-circumstances eat. Don’t worry – we’ve got you!

Here is a list of what you should not eat during pregnancy, why they can be harmful, and some alternatives to help you avoid them entirely.

1) Raw Meat

Rare or undercooked beef or poultry can affect you and your baby with coliform bacteria, parasites, toxoplasmosis, and salmonella. 

Meats are a little tricky because there are so many different ways you can cook them. Your best bet, when cooking and eating meat, is to check the internal temperature based on this chart:

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

2) Fish High in Mercury

Fish containing high levels of mercury have been linked to developmental delays and brain damage when consumed during pregnancy. You should avoid albacore tuna (most commonly used to make canned tuna) and certain types of fish used in sushi due to high levels of mercury.

A little bit won’t hurt, but for the most part, you should avoid high mercury intake or it could have serious effects on your and your baby’s immune and nervous systems. 

3) Raw and Smoked Fish

Just like raw meat, raw and smoked fish (including shellfish: oysters, clams, and mussels) run the risk of being contaminated with bacteria and parasites, the most common of which is listeria. 

Pregnancy makes you 20 times more likely to be infected by listeria because pregnant individuals have a naturally depressed cell-mediated immune system. Listeria can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health issues. 

If you’re a sushi lover, you should avoid it during your pregnancy as even the highest quality sushi can be dangerous to yours and your baby’s health. If you are absolutely craving sushi, go for the rolls made of cooked shrimp, salmon, and crab and you’ll find that they satisfy your craving just as much.

4) Pre-packaged Deli and Canned Meat

These have also been linked to listeria, which can lead to infection or blood poisoning and can be seriously life-threatening. 

Because the food generally is exposed to bacteria during the processing and storing time, canned or deli meats are ok to eat if you reheat them until they are steaming. But if not, fresh meat is just a safer option.

5) Raw Eggs 

Due to potential exposure to salmonella, raw eggs or foods containing them should not be consumed. 

That includes homemade Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream, Hollandaise sauces, and yes even that raw cookie dough that is so tempting when you’re baking, no matter how good it looks. 

Commercially manufactured ice creams, dressings, and eggnog generally use pasteurized eggs, which don’t carry the risk of salmonella, so those are your best bet during your pregnancy.

6) Unpasteurized Milk

While you may be under the impression that raw milk has health benefits that pasteurized milk doesn’t offer, you’re exposing yourself and your baby to harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. 

Pasteurized milk is an easy alternative.

7) Unpasteurized Juice

Same applies as above but maybe you’re just unsure what qualifies as “unpasteurized juice.” Fresh cider from a farm or freshly squeezed juices, as delicious and fresh as you think they may taste, can also contain harmful bacteria.

8) Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses are often made with unpasteurized milk, so again they can contain bacteria, specifically listeria. Most imported soft cheeses are made this way including Brie, Bleu, Feta, Camembert, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Mexican cheeses like queso blanco. 

Soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk do exist and can be consumed while you’re pregnant, so just check the ingredients list.

9) Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a balanced diet but, it is also essential that they are thoroughly washed to avoid potential exposure to Toxoplasma. This is a bacteria derived from contaminated soil where the foods were grown and can leave your baby with brain damage or blindness. 

10) Excess Caffeine

While studies seem to show varying results as to whether or not caffeine intake in moderation during pregnancy is permissible, we say err on the side of caution. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day (about an 11-ounce cup of coffee). Caffeine has been related to miscarriages so it should not be consumed excessively, particularly during the first trimester. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it eliminates fluids (water and calcium) from your body, fluids that are essential to a healthy baby’s growth. 

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, pasteurized juices, and milk. 

11) Alcohol

While studies have shown different results for caffeine, not a single one has shown that any amount of alcohol consumption, no matter how minimal, is safe during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of your baby and lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other developmental disorders. 

If you consumed alcohol before knowing you were pregnant, stop drinking now and continue through breastfeeding. Exposure to alcohol in any capacity can be harmful to an infant and yes, it can reach them through breastfeeding.

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Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care consists of over 30 OB/GYN facilities and 5 Imaging Centers throughout the Hampton Roads community
Corporate Office
757-455-8833

Corporate Office
6353 Center Drive, Suite 100
Norfolk, Virginia 23502

© 2019 Mid-Atlantic Women's Care
© 2019 Mid-Atlantic Women's Care
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